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Rails to Trails, Medicine Bow Mtns, WY May 13, 2007

June 16, 2007

Posted June 16, 2007

Mother’s Day weekend found me headed to Walden, CO to visit mom (interesting coincidence : ) on Sunday, May 13, 2007. As the route took me through the Medicine Bow mountains west of Laramie, I thought I would take an hour or so to check out a new “trail” that I had seen on a prior trip. This new trail follows an old railroad track which was originally used to carry coal from North Park to the Laramie area.

Before I go any further in the trip’s description, here is my standard comment. Please check my photo galleries here for all the larger and higher quality photos for this trip. The photos in the gallery are a quantum leap in size and quality compared to the little teaser photos found here.
In addition, you can use this link to view a topo map of the Rails to Trail parking lot and section of trail I hiked that day. A Google Earth map can be found here (you may need to adjust the scale bar on the left side of the Google map).
All links open a new browser window.

After the rails were removed, a partnership between the state of Wyoming, local citizens, and the Medicine Bow National Forest was able to convert the old railway into a 20+ mile long trail to be used by people on foot and bicycles. Much more information can be found here http://www.laramiebikenet.com/rails2trails.htm on the decision making process. Here is an article about one person’s experience on the trail starting from Lake Owen http://cbs4denver.com/local/local_story_249083529.html .

Anyway, the section I was going to take a quick walk on is just before you reach (heading west on Wyoming state hwy 230) the turnoff to Foxpark (interesting things occur there, but that’s another trip : ). They have constructed a very nice parking area, rest room, and picnic facility along with the entrance to the trail itself.

Note that this trail is specifically designed for bicycling and walking (although it is well suited for jogging). A person could bike the entire trail in a day as long as a shuttle system was set up. The trail spends most of the time in the national forest, so there is not much worry about fences or private land (in general). And, since it was a railroad, the trail is extremely level in nature.

So, sunny day, grass just starting to green up, no insects, flat trail, pretty scenary. Sound nice? It was just as nice as it sounds. The trail passes through various drainages with ponds and streams. If you are walking, such as myself, it is very easy to take little detours and go exploring. This is one reason why I prefer walking to bicycling. But, then, I wasn’t worried about covering a lot of the trail in one day. Still a few patches of snow around. But, definitely shorts and t-shirt weather.

The meadows were all full of water (and some early flowers). This turned out to be a great test of my new gor-tex lined boots. I’m happy to report that they passed the “waterproof test” with flying colors.

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In another week or two this meadow will be full of flowers and may actually be dry enough to sit down : ) Lots of moose and deer sign, but I did not see any of the animals themselves during the day’s walk.

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After walking another half mile or so along the trail, I crossed another stream with beaver ponds. This one actually had a beaver house sitting in the pond.

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Between streams, the trail just winds through forested areas. Very pleasant, but not much to see. Of course, if you are on a bike (or, jogging), you would zip right through these areas pretty quickly.

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One thing this trail does is offer some very interesting options for “adventuring.” So, some of these streams, such as this one, run all the way to the Laramie River through the national forest. If you have a shuttle figured out, this would give you a great hike (all day or overnight) through the forest along the trail. Or, rather, along the stream. Except for a little bit of a fishing trail at each end, I doubt that you would find any established trail (I certainly could not see any sign of a trail on the map and saw no trailhead). Hard to get lost, but not impossible; so, caution is advised if you do any type of cross country hiking.

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I’ve zoomed in a little for another shot. Probably find some pretty good fishing along the way. Looking at the map it looks like it would be around an 8 to 10 mile hike to the Laramie River from this point.

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I did find one small stretch of the trail to still be covered with snow. Very easy to walk around it. Hmmmm. Now where did those clouds come from?

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Most of the trees had yet to begin leafing out. However, some of the smaller willows were in a blooming stage.

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Here is a zoom shot to show the bloom detail and another critter enjoying the blooms even more than myself : )

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In certain areas, it still had a little bit of wintry look to it. But, if you were there (like me) and felt the warm air, it just looked like a lot of melting snow. Or, as we have a tendency to say, “it’s springtime in the rockies.”

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I had to turn around and head for Walden after walking only 3-4 miles, but along the highway I finally did spot a moose. So, I just “had” to stop and take some pictures.

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Zoom a little.

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Zoom a lot. Tried to spot a new born calf, but no luck. Still, moose are always fun to see.

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Near the Camp Creek access road I spotted some elk off in the distance. They were just outside of the treeline doing a little feeding. Hard to see at this distance.

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Zoom a little and they start to show up in the photo (well, if you view the same photo in my gallery (see link above) the elk actually show up : ).

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Zoom a little more and they actually look like elk. There were others all along the tree line.

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Don’t know the story behind this place, but it’s kinda neat so I took a photo of it. Little run down looking, but still usable. There are some cabins up to the right (out of sight of this photo) that I occasionally see people staying in. May be a family that owns the property and just comes up to “rough it” a few times each year.

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Finally, here are a couple of photos of “coming into Walden, CO” Neat place.

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Zoom in.

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So, a very pleasant day. Nice hike on a “trail” that I will want to return to more than once, wildlife, and saying hi to my mom (and, moving a few boxes to her new digs : )

This trail is an excellent place to take the kids for a short or long hike. And, even better, they can take their bikes. There are one or two places where a stream crosses under the trail that you will want to watch out for small children getting into big trouble, but otherwise a very safe environment (that said, it always pays to careful). And the beginning of the hike has some nice picnic tables and grills to enjoy either before or after the hike/ride. Wonderful way to use some old railroads.

– Geoff Weatherford

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